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Lopez v. Minnesota Vikings Football Stadium, LLC

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 30, 2018

Anastacio Lemus Lopez, Plaintiff,
Minnesota Vikings Football Stadium, LLC, Monterrey Security Consultants, Inc., Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, SMG, Janee Harteau, Andrew Hodynsky, Russell Cragin, Anthony Rodin, Michael Grahn, Stephen McCarty, Gerald Moore, Michael Fossum, Richard W. Stanek, David J. Hough, Michael, O. Freeman, being sued in their individual and official capacities, Minnesota Vikings Football, LLC, Hennepin County, and City of Minneapolis, Defendants.


          Paul A. Magnuson Judge

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss by Defendant Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (“MSFA”). For the following reasons, the Motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         In 2012, the Minnesota Legislature delineated the MSFA's powers, duties, and control over not-yet-constructed U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, including the authority to “delegate such duties through an agreement.” Minn. Stat. § 473J.09, subd. 5. The MSFA ultimately contracted with Defendant SMG to manage and operate U.S. Bank Stadium as “an independent contractor of the [MSFA].” (Bjorklund Decl. (Docket No. 120-1) Ex. 1.) SMG contracted with Defendant Monterrey Security Consultants, Inc., to provide security services at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Id. (Docket No. 121) Ex. 2.) SMG also entered into individual agreements with Minneapolis police officers to work in an off-duty capacity at U.S. Bank Stadium events. (Id. (Docket No. 123) Ex. 3.)[1]

         On December 1, 2016, Plaintiff Anastacio Lopez attended a Minnesota Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Am. Compl. (Docket No. 93) ¶ 30.) During the game, off-duty Minneapolis police officers asked Lopez to accompany them to a security processing center before ejecting him from the venue. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 33.) Lopez voluntarily complied and accompanied the officers to the security processing center. (Id. ¶ 32.)

         At some point on the way to the processing center, the Defendant police officers and Defendant Andrew Hodynsky, a Monterrey Security employee, allegedly “attacked [Lopez] while [he] was in custody, due to his color and ethnicity.” (Id. ¶ 1.) Lopez brought this lawsuit against the individual police officers and Hodynsky, claiming assault, battery, and use of excessive force. He also alleges negligence and respondeat superior against the MSFA and numerous other Defendants, including SMG and Monterrey Security. The MSFA has moved to dismiss the three Counts against it: Count VII alleges negligent supervision, training, retention, and hiring. Counts XIII and XIV are respondeat superior claims of intentional and negligent misconduct. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 101-03, 119-26.)


         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court assumes the allegations in the Amended Complaint to be true and construes all reasonable inferences from those facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1986). But the Court need not accept as true wholly conclusory allegations, Hanten v. Sch. Dist. of Riverview Gardens, 183 F.3d 799, 805 (8th Cir. 1999), or legal conclusions that the plaintiff draws from the facts pled. Westcott v. City of Omaha, 901 F.2d 1486, 1488 (8th Cir. 1990).

         A complaint must contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face” to survive a motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Although a complaint need not contain “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain facts with enough specificity “to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Id. at 555. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, ” will not pass muster under Twombly. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This standard “calls for enough fact[s] to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of [the claim].” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         A. Negligent Hiring, Retention, Supervision, and Training

         As a threshold matter, the MSFA contends that a negligent-training claim is not actionable in Minnesota. See Johnson v. Peterson, 734 N.W.2d 275, 277 (Minn.Ct.App. 2007) (“Minnesota law does not recognize a cause of action for negligent training.”). The Court agrees and dismisses the negligent-training claim in Count VII. Insofar as Count VII alleges negligent hiring, retention, and supervision against the MSFA, the MSFA argues that these claims fail either under the doctrine of statutory immunity or because they are not supported by sufficient factual allegations.

         The MSFA argues that statutory immunity bars Lopez's claims of negligent hiring, retention, and supervision because these are planning-level decisions that fall under the discretionary-acts exception to municipality liability.

         Subject to enumerated exceptions, “a municipality is liable for its torts and the torts of its agents.” Magnolia 8 Props., LLC v. City of Maple Plain, 893 N.W.2d 658, 662 (Minn.Ct.App. 2017) (citing Minn. Stat. § 466.02)). “The [MSFA] is a municipality within the meaning of chapter 466.” Minn. Stat. § 473J.09, subd. 1. One exception in chapter 466 immunizes a municipality from tort liability for “[a]ny claim based upon the performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty.” Minn. Stat. § 466.03, subd. 6. “[D]ecisions involving supervision and retention of employees are discretionary acts entitled to statutory immunity.” Gleason v. Metro. Council Transit Operations, 563 N.W.2d 309, 320 (Minn.Ct.App. 1997), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 582 N.W.2d 216 (Minn. 1998). Similarly, a claim regarding municipality's hiring decisions “are barred by statutory immunity” because such decisions “are based on policy level activity.” Id.

         Lopez argues that the MSFA's hiring, retention, and supervision decisions involve factual questions and, under the circumstances, are not planning-level decisions. (Pl.'s Opp'n Mem. (Docket No. 96) at 9-11.) But Minnesota courts have definitively concluded that a municipality's hiring, retention, and supervision decisions are discretionary acts. See, e.g., Gleason, 563 N.W.2d at 320. And whether a municipality's decisions “are a discretionary function is a legal question.” Snyder v. City of Minneapolis, 441 N.W.2d 781, 786 (Minn. 1989). Even assuming as true the factual allegations in the Amended Complaint, the Court ...

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